Welcome back, writers! And readers!
I know, I know. I all but vanished after Starforge launched last week. Which, by the way, if you missed it, is finally here, and it is glorious. But after a Reddit AMA and the launch of the book itself, I pretty much disappeared, which was kind of weird, right?
Well, the answer to the why is “I got sick.” Somewhere between working all the extra hours I did to get Starforge out on time and the array of colds and coughs going around right now, I got whammied with a particularly vengeful cold that knocked me out for the entirety of last week. But at least it gave me a chance to catch up on the sleep debt I’d built up during the lead-in to the Starforge launch.
Speaking of which, however, how’s Starforge doing? Well, while it’s still too early to roll out any definitive numbers, just the performance of the first few days suggests that Starforge is very likely my strongest book launch of all time.
Better yet, it’s not slowing down. Sales have continued to roll in over the last week. Constant sales of Starforge and the rest of the trilogy, as well as Kindle Unlimited reads. So much so that a single day over this last weekend accrued more sales than two whole weeks would have earlier this year.
It’s also already pulling in the Five-Star reader responses, which is telling in two ways. First, that it does indeed serve as a fitting and colossal finale to the trilogy as a whole, but also that someone was sucked in hard enough that they finished its entire half a million word length in just a few days from the launch.
Sands and Storms, guys. It was a lot of work, but it looks like it’s paid off. Starforge is the finale you were all waiting for.
If you haven’t checked out the trilogy yet, I highly advise doing so. If you’re a fan of big, grand, colossal-concept Science-Fiction, you owe it to yourself to check the UNSEC Space Trilogy out.
Now then, other quick bits of news before we move into today’s Being a Better Writer. First up: The upcoming price point adjustment. This was slated to happen around Starforge‘s launch, and it still is. But I figured being sick gave everyone a bit of an extra breather. Long story short, I haven’t adjusted the price points of my books in almost ten years (February 2013 to be exact). So one of my projects this upcoming week is a full price adjustment for most of the books in my library.
I will note that I’m still going to be basing my books on the same 1994-inspired values that my prices—with adjustment for inflation—reflected prior to this point, as explained in the original The Price We Pay post on book prices. There will be an updated “Price we Pay” post coming in conjunction with the adjustment, as well as an addendum link to the original post guiding curious readers toward the new price comparison chart.
If you’d rather grab stuff before the adjustment, then this week is your week to do so. I’m aiming to get the new prices out Thursday or Friday, so consider that your cutoff line. Though Starforge will remain the same price, since it’s brand new and already reflects the new price point.
Now, last but not least, what else is coming? Before we launch into today’s Being a Better Writer topic, what’s on the horizon now that Starforge, juggernaut of juggernauts, is out?
Well, I plan to start work on two new novels today, actually. Okay, I’m already working on a new one. It is, at long last, a new Jacob Rocke book. That’s right, a new Unusuals novel! Now, I definitely won’t be able to get it out by the tenth anniversary of the first Jacob Rocke book (as well as my first book overall), but I will likely be able to get it out fairly quickly. No name yet, but if you were one of those readers who loved One Drink and Dead Silver and wanted to see more of the Unusuals setting and Rocke’s adventures, that’s the next book I’ll be working on. I’m still hammering out some of the basic details, but the gist of the story is already starting to take shape.
After that draft gets hammered out, I’ll let it rest while sitting down to work on—and for some of you this will come with an “AT LAST!” proclamation—the next Axtara book, tentatively titled Magic and Mayhem. We’re far from done with either the setting or the titular banking dragoness herself, so look forward to more of that in the future. Speaking of the setting, there was also that short novel I pumped out around September-October set in the same universe about a young fisherman and mermaid that also could be polished up and rewritten …
So yes, suffice it to say that in the wake of Starforge—and as big a book as it was, the wake is pretty colossal—I’ve got plenty to tide me over and work on leading into 2023. Oh, there’s also all those short stories I wrote up over the last year, plus there’s LTUE in 2023, which I just got my schedule for …
Suffice it to say, the future looks bright. Starforge and the rest of the trilogy are tearing up my charts, Axtara just continues to sore and pop up in more bookstores with every passing week, and I’ve got plenty of book projects slated for the coming year. Starforge may be out … but we’re far from done. There’s a lot of adventure coming folks. So though we may be saying farewell to Jake, Anna, and Sweets, there are plenty of friends new and old on their way.
And with that, let’s finally get down to today’s Being a Better Writer topic and start talking about sequels. I know a number of you are likely a little perplexed upon seeing today’s title. After all, Portal 2 is a video game (and if you didn’t know that and are now joining the ranks of the perplexed, bear with me). What could a video game have to offer writers teaching about story?
Well, you’d be surprised. A lot of video games have been no slouch in the storytelling department for decades now, and both Portal titles are no exception. While the story may be presented in a manner that’s different from a book owing to the audio-visual nature of the medium, that doesn’t change the fact that it can be a great story.
But we’re not just talking about Portal 2 today because of how many awards it won (and rightfully so, I’ll add). We’re talking about Portal 2 because despite being in a different medium, it does lay down a very identifiable pattern to follow if you want to create a sequel that exceeds the first in every way.
We’ve talked about the problem with sequels before on this site. Numerous times, in fact, sometimes as the focus of a whole post, other times as a discussion point. But each time it’s been a point of note that what a lot of sequels get wrong about crafting a sequel is “Just do the first story again, maybe with more.” What “more” is varies quite a bit. For movies it usually means more guest celebrity appearances, or explosions. With games it can often mean the same but with new levels slapped in it (usually from the cutting floor of the first title). With books it often means getting the gang back together for another go, sometimes even relearning the exact same lessons as last time.
These are all weak sequels, but they persist because of a common issue, that being that the original concept, be it game, movie, or book, was never written with a follow-up in mind. So when the market says “give us more” the usual response is for the creators to repackage what they already saw success with and shove it out again.
Enter “Round 2: The Sequel.” This is why you’ll read sequel books where characters learn the same lessons again, or regress from their accomplishments and growth in the first book. Or find that the big bad they fought so hard against was—Surprise!—secretly the minion of an ever bigger bad who’s really similar to the last one …
You get the idea. Sequels tend to be really difficult territory for a lot of creators. Writers among them. Time and time again I’ve seen a young writer create a story that is a bit of a hit for them, and react by immediately making a follow-up that is just really the same story as the first, but again.
Portal 2, however, didn’t make that mistake. Instead Portal 2 is widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels of all time. How? Why? And what lessons can we take from it that will make our own sequels stand out against the originals instead of just being a token “Here we go again?” journey?
Hit the jump, and let’s talk about it.